TATTGOC is an ongoing quest to seeking out the best curryhouses Glasgow has to offer – but the Tramps have certainly been known to order up a takeaway or two. So when they heard Kenny McGovern, author of a series of books about takeaway secrets, discussing his methods on BBC Radio Scotland, they decided then and there to get in touch and ask Kenny about his own quest. McGovern promptly offered to share some of his brand-new research into recreating that distinctive takeaway curry base and we're delighted – in what you could probably call a world exclusive – to present the results. See below for our chinwag with this exceptionally dedicated and interesting currynaut, and scroll even further down for his curry gravy recipe – and also how to use that base to create a classic sweet and sour patia. TATTGOC salutes you, Kenny!
Kenny, you've been writing books about recreating takeaway-style food at home since 2010 – how did the idea originally come about?
The books began life after I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and found myself struggling to get out and about to visit restaurants and enjoy the food I'd previously been able to obtain. After successfully recreating the chargrilled chicken sandwich sold at Greggs, I soon moved on to recreating other dishes and quickly became addicted to trying to recreate things at home.
Obviously here at TATTGOC we're most interested in curry – what were some of the trickiest dishes to work out? Did you require inside info from restaurateurs/takeaway owners?
In many cases the method of cooking was more difficult to discover and replicate than the ingredients themselves. Most mainstream fast food chains list ingredients on their websites or menus and where that's not the case it's often easy to taste and work out what might be in a particular dish. Putting those ingredients together in a way which faithfully recreates the takeaway experience is a little more complicated however, particularly where equipment such as pizza ovens or tandoor ovens are used.
I hope that the recipes and cooking methods I've come up with do a good job of recreating those dishes as closely as is possible in a domestic kitchen. Although I did try to obtain secrets and information from restaurateurs and takeaway owners, the best piece of advice I was given along the journey was much more simple but hugely important: "If it's expensive or it takes a long time, that's not how they do it."
|Cheap as chips|
In the vast majority of cases, that's absolutely true. Even simple things such as choosing "value" tomato ketchup from the supermarket for your sweet and sour sauce or spiced onions can make a huge difference to how authentic your homemade takeaway tastes.
If you owned a takeaway, would you spend more than £1 on Heinz sauce when a bottle of value ketchup can be had for 30p?! To recreate a takeaway you have to think like a takeaway – the results will be all the better, and more authentic, for it, believe me!
Have you come across any regional variations in curry cooking?
Absolutely. Whilst of course big chains such as McDonald's and Pizza Hut are very methodic and taste the same regardless of what city you're in, smaller takeaway restaurants which are typically family-owned vary hugely, not just from city to city but even from street to street. As TATTGOC readers will know, it's possible to experience hundreds of different South Indian Garlic Chilli Chicken Curry dishes in Glasgow alone – and each one, although perhaps equally delicious, will vary hugely in terms of heat, colour, ingredients etc. It's one of my favourite things about Indian and Chinese takeaways that you can try your favourite dish one hundred different ways simply by trying another restaurant's take on it.
You've become skilled at making takeaway food at home, but what are some of your favourite Indian takeaways to order from – and do you still manage to get to curryhouses?
I grew up on Ashoka curries before the chain was sold to new owners. Since then, I have yet to find a regular go-to takeaway curryhouse to be honest. I'm still struggling at times with Social Anxiety Disorder, so my experiences of eating out are still reasonably limited.
|TATTGOC's Shezan visit from yonks ago|
In takeaway terms, I've enjoyed some excellent curry dishes in Glasgow from Shezan on Cathcart Road and I know many people who have a lot of good things to say about the Anarkali in Victoria Road. More recently I've had some nice dishes too from Kebab City on Riverford Road in Newlands. Going further afield, Masala Grill in Dunfermline does a very nice Chicken Puri.
Curries aside, a special mention should go to Morello's, a hugely popular and famous kebab shop which used to be located on Battlefield Road but sadly closed down some years ago after a fire in the restaurant. The owner, who used to make the best chicken kebabs and the most amazing pizzas I've ever had from a kebab shop, moved back to Turkey. He's very sadly missed.
Mmmm, kebabs. The Tramps have been known to enjoy a kebab or two – is it really possible to recreate them at home? Or should we buy the books to find out?
You should absolutely buy the books to find out! It's certainly possible to recreate the kebab experience at home, even if using methods which vary a little from those used by takeaway owners. Without the "spit" or rotating grill, we have to rely on other cooking methods.
The lamb doner kebab recipe included in my first book, The Takeaway Secret, uses an oven bake to create something of a meatloaf – sliced thin and stuffed in a pitta bread, I think it has all the authentic flavour of donner meat, with the added bonus of containing 100% lamb and a few healthy herbs and spices.
Chicken kebabs at home are another dish which we can very authentically recreate, particularly during the summer barbecue season. In my opinion, at least 50% of the flavour of a good chicken kebab comes from the charcoal and the marinades used in takeaway dishes can be very easily replicated at home.
Before we get to the recipes you're about to share with TATTGOC readers ... what's next for you?
I'm still obsessed with takeaway food and food in general and spend most of my waking life thinking about recipes and trying things out. I've joined the blogging world in order to keep in touch with readers and share new ideas, recipes and reviews. I try to respond to recipe requests on Twitter too – I'm on there as @takeawaysecret. I'm always delighted when people tweet pictures of dishes they've cooked using my recipes.
I have a host of new recipes that I'd love to put together for a third takeaway secret book in the near future. I've also got plans to write two separate books based solely on Chinese and Indian cooking so that I can go really in-depth and cover as many menu items as possible.
My food obsession covers everyday food and cooking styles too however and so I'm eager to branch out and perhaps share some more home-cooking style recipes in a book as well. I recently began working with the Student Pocket Guide, contributing recipes to their website and to the latest issue of their magazine, due out this September. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them and others.
I've done some work with BBC Radio Scotland over the last 12 months too which has been very different, hugely enjoyable and a massive boost to my confidence where Social Anxiety is concerned. Food writing in general is something I didn't realise I had such a passion for. I can't get enough of it now and hope to be lucky enough to share my recipes and ramblings with people for a long time to come!
Masala Spices Curry Gravy (for Scottish-style Indian Curries)
Ingredients (makes 8-10 curries):
4 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons mild chilli powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
3 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3kg onion, peeled and halved
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced
1 salad tomato, quartered
1 teaspoon english mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
300ml vegetable oil
3 teaspoons garlic and ginger paste
4 teaspoons tomato puree
1 sachet creamed coconut (Patak's)
|Kenny's curry gravy – all your base are belong to us|
In a bowl, combine turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala, dried fenugreek, salt and sugar. Mix well and set aside.
In a large stock pot, add onions, carrot, tomato, mustard powder, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Add cold water until the contents are half covered. Cover the pan with a lid, bring to the boil over a high heat, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for around 1 hour.
Add the vegetable oil, garlic and ginger paste, tomato puree and creamed coconut. Add the prepared bowl of spices and mix well. Return the lid and continue to cook for a further 1 hour.
Blend the curry gravy with a stick blender until smooth. Return the pan to a low heat and continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes or until some oil separation occurs. At this stage the gravy will spit furiously so be sure to almost fully cover with a lid and be careful!
Allow the curry gravy to cool and portion into 250-300ml batches for future use in curry dishes.
Traditional Curry Sauce/Sweet And Sour Patia Curry Sauce
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon garlic and ginger paste
1 teaspoon tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon mild chilli powder
1 small handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 large pinch dried fenugreek leaves
5-6 pieces cooked chicken tikka/lamb/prawns as desired
250-300ml Masala Spices Curry Gravy
|Fair play to Kenny and his research – it does look authentic|
In a frying pan, add salt, garlic and ginger paste, tomato puree, chilli powder, fresh coriander and dried fenugreek.
Switch the heat on to medium low. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the curry gravy, mix well and cook for 2 minutes or until hot. Add cooked chicken/lamb/prawns as desired.
Add half of the remaining curry gravy and mix well once again. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Add the remaining curry gravy. For a Sweet and Sour Patia Curry Sauce, add 2 tablespoons mango chutney, 1 teaspoon tomato ketchup and 3-4 drops lemon juice at this stage. Increase the heat to medium and cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
Pour the curry into a foil tray and garnish with a little extra fresh coriander. Serve with rice, poppadoms and chapatis.